It was approximately one year ago that my wife and I resigned from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It has been a year filled with profound learning. The Spirit has taught me eternally significant lessons that it could not have taught had I not been obedient to the word of the Lord and left my old life (job, home, friends, family) behind and pursued the path that the Lord laid out for me. After trials unlike anything I had ever previously experienced, peace has prevailed in my life and in the lives of my companions, and I feel confident in saying that the Lord is pleased with our efforts so far.
Our resignation was largely prompted by our publicly questioning the doctrines, policies, and teachings of the church to the extent that we were no longer welcome in the temple. Excommunication loomed, and we saw no point in creating a situation that would cause pain for people whom we considered to be friends. However, our questioning has continued. As a matter of fact, pretty much everything taught by the church is subject to review. The house of cards that is the post-Joseph Smith LDS church has, in my view, come crashing down, and I am left to reconstruct my beliefs. I must determine which of my beliefs are derived from the philosophies of men, and which are derived from the light of truth that is Jesus Christ.
I offer a few examples of things that I formerly believed but which I now question:
- Unfortunately, I have been forced to question the scriptures. Before you recoil in shock, allow me to explain. Until 1921, the Doctrine and Covenants contained the Lectures on Faith. Then, a committee decided they didn’t belong. My own study of D&C 132 suggests to me that it has been interpreted to promote polygamy, when in actuality it does no such thing. The bible once contained several books that are now relegated to the apocrypha. I can deal with things being added to the canon of scripture, but when something is taken away – that suggests either that the canon that was once complete and sacred really wasn’t, or that the new canon isn’t really complete and sacred because of the things that were formerly sacred but were removed. So, which is it?
- The Doctrine of Christ. No – I don’t question the doctrine of Christ. It is stated quite clearly in 3 Nephi 11:35-40:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.
And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
What I question, though, is where did all the other things that are taught for doctrine by the myriad churches, all the things that supposedly distinguish one church from another, including the LDS church, come from? (can you say, “…there are save two churches only?”) If Christ Himself – by His very mouth – declares His doctrine as quoted above, and then warns about the gates of hell standing open for whoso shall declare more or less than this…well, that’s pretty heady stuff. How is it that, for example, children of gay people cannot be baptized? How is it that one must obey the word of wisdom or be married or testify of the church president being a prophet, seer, and revelator before one can be baptized? Exactly when and how and by whose word were such things added to the doctrine of Christ? What happened to the simple “Believe in me, repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost”? It seems to me that there are a lot of philosophies of men that have been taught as “doctrine” and now need to be weeded out. Which ones are the doctrine of Christ and which ones are the doctrines of “the church”?
- Ordinances. Only baptism and the sacrament are taught in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Are the rest real? Necessary?
- Temples and sealing. Per the study mentioned above on D&C 132, I’m not sure that anyone had the right to delegate the sealing power as is done today. Plus, there was a written, published revelation commanding the saints to build the Kirtland Temple and the Nauvoo Temple (and the Far West temple, for that matter), but there is no such revelation telling Brigham Young or anyone else to build a temple after that. Did Brigham Young just take it upon Himself to start building? Are there revelations that were received but just not published? (That, of course, is a whole other topic) How accurate is the endowment? We can’t be changing ordinances. What about the changes that have occurred to the endowments and initiatories? Similar to the situation with the scriptures – which version is right – before the change or after the change? Hmmmm….
These are just a few more sweeping examples of things that I now question. It’s not intended in any way to be an exhaustive list, and it is most certainly not. That is not the point of this post. No, the point is that where there were once firm (even if they were false) beliefs, there are now questions. A void is left. That void must be filled quickly, and it must be filled with truth, or it will simply be filled with more lies and more of the philosophies of different men. A truth inventory is in order.
As I was praying this morning, I was lamenting the situation before the Lord, and was prompted to take an inventory of the things that I DO believe – things that I DO NOT question. The result:
- Christ lives. My knowledge of Him has never wavered. He abides in and with me as He promised he would in John 14:16. He is perfect righteousness. All justice, mercy, goodness, and love abide in Him. They define Him, and they define my desires.
- Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. Denver Snuffer is a true messenger – as described to me by the Lord’s own voice. They are messengers only, pointing the way. They have no control over my salvation. Only Christ stands at the gate, and He employs no servant there.
- Zion will come. This I simply know in the bones of my soul. It will be built by willing hands and humble hearts, and it will be inhabited by those who can cast off the spirit of competition that is so ingrained in us as a result of the fall.
- I desire goodness and righteousness. I have zero desire to control other people – to exercise unrighteous dominion. My heart is pure before God – even if my execution of His will leaves something to be desired. My life is meaningless if it is not dedicated to serving others and thus serving Christ. I am NOT perfect, or even very good at this, but this is the target of my hope, dreams, and desires. Everything else that I do is ultimately meaningless.
- The Book of Mormon is the word of God provided especially for us in these latter days. I currently live in a community that includes a lot of very sincere Christians. My belief in the Book of Mormon is a bit of a problem for them, and they can’t seem to understand that I will not surrender that belief. Oh, well…
- The “Gifts of the Spirit”, if they are not being experienced, are only absent because of our unbelief. This is painful for me to admit, but Moroni makes it very clear in Moroni 7:37 and other places in the Book of Mormon. Nevertheless, I will not stop trying, seeking, and believing.
- D&C 121:34-46 is every bit as profound and important as it ever was. It is never ok to attempt to exercise control, compulsion, or dominion over the souls of the children of men. That is what Satan does. It’s that simple. The principles laid forth in this section of scripture (and it IS scripture) are the guide by which I live my life.
- Ordinances are important, even if I don’t really understand why. Baptism and the Sacrament are especially important – possibly the only ones that are essential and real. I’ll have to be taught the rest by the spirit, because as I said above, I don’t trust what men have told me.
- The Sermon on the Mount is the key to Zion. It is the Lord opening a window to the society of heaven. Principles such as repentance, forgiveness, humility, and meekness are essential. Consider the Lilies. Most people dismiss it as unachievable, but I would just say, “I don’t think He was kidding”.
- The universe is organized and held together by love. Don’t know how it works, but I believe it. It was created by faith, but the faith was and is motivated by love. In other words, the Lord said, “I think this can be, and it should be, so it will be”. Now, that’s faith.
This is a brief (and likewise incomplete) list of things that have not been shaken by my experiences of the past couple of years. I suspect that most of you who have been through this process of leaving the LDS church while maintaining your faith in the restored gospel will find this account familiar. There is much for us to question and re-examine, but there is also much to build on. I have rejected or at least questioned much of the philosophies of conspiring men that have been mingled with the word of the Lord, but my house is built firmly on the rock of revelation and the foundation of the doctrine of Christ. He is my desire, my hope, my inspiration…my purpose for being. I have no desire to sin, but only to be obedient, and especially to love, love, and love some more. I have complete confidence that I will continue to be taught and led by the Spirit of Christ, and this is what will fill the void left by the fall of the great and spacious building – even the pride of the world (1 Nephi 11:36).